Fall Prevention

If you have a fear of falling because of age-related ailments, you are one of many older Americans with that fear.

Your concern is valid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 800,000 patients per year enter hospitals because of fall-related injuries. The most common debilitating fall injuries are hip fractures and head trauma. In fact, more traumatic brain injuries are caused by falls than by any other means of injury.

There are many risk factors for falls you might have as an older person, such as vision problems or certain medical conditions. However, you must not allow your fear of falling to dictate the way you lead your life, especially when it comes to being active. Doing so may actually increase your chances of falling because staying inactive out of fear can eventually impair your mobility. Many risk factors for falling can be greatly reduced by taking some simple steps to protect yourself. Below are some tips to help you with fall prevention.

Eliminate Unnecessary Hazards in Your Home

There are many hazards in your home you may not even notice until they cause you to fall. Therefore, identifying and eliminating those hazards early is essential for limiting your fall risks. For example, small throw rugs may look nice, but they often slide easily. Stepping on one that is slippery can easily cause you to lose your footing. The best solution is to remove throw rugs from your home. However, if you want to keep them, you can enlist a loved one to help you secure them by taping them to the floor. You can also eliminate other common home hazards by:

  • Removing clutter, including electrical wires, from walkways.
  • Updating your bathroom with assistive tools like non-skid bath mats and grab bars.
  • Relocating items you use often to low shelves and cabinets so you do not have to access them with a step ladder.

If you have any staircases or steps in your home, you will be at high risk for falling when going up or down them. However, you can make them safer by having them repaired, if they are damaged. Having secure railings to hold onto while using them will also reduce the possibility of falling. Additional precautions you can take to make stairs safer include:

  • Keeping the stairs clean and free of clutter.
  • Securing loose stair carpeting.
  • Installing proper stairway lighting, including switches at the bottom and top of the stairs.

Update the Lighting in Your Home

The staircase area is not the only place in your home where proper lighting is important. You need to be able to see well throughout your entire living space. One way to accomplish that goal is to install fluorescent or LED lighting in your home. Those types of bulbs cast a lot of light while using very little electricity.

You must also make sure you have enough lighting options when you need to get up in the middle of the night for purposes like using the bathroom. Start by making sure you have a lamp on your nightstand or a wall switch for your overhead light near your bed. Replacing your light switch plate covers with illuminated or glow-in-the-dark covers can also make it easier to see at night. Additional safe nighttime lighting options include:

  • Nightlights.
  • Battery-operated lanterns.
  • Flashlights.

Wear the Right Footwear

Wearing proper footwear is essential to reduce the possibility of falling in your home. If your home features slippery surfaces, such as hardwood floors, never go barefoot or wear socks around the house. Also, avoid the temptation to wear slippers. Any of those options may cause you to fall when you walk across the room. Instead, always wear shoes with rubber or non-skid soles and avoid wearing high heels. Wearing shoes with laces is also preferable. Wearing shoes you can easily slip on and off without tying is a bad idea because they can also accidentally slip off when they are not supposed to.

The general footwear advice above may not work for you if you have certain medical conditions. For example, if your gait or the shape of your feet is affected by a medical condition, you must consult your physician. He or she may refer you to a podiatrist. The podiatrist can tell you find the best types of footwear to suit your comfort and safety needs.

Understand How Vision and Hearing Impact Fall Risks

One of the most important factors in fall prevention is good vision. If you cannot see where you are going, it will become more difficult to avoid tripping hazards and other obstacles. However, total loss of vision is not necessary for your eyesight to impact your chances of falling. Any changes in your vision can make it more difficult to see, and therefore easier to fall. Such changes include obtaining new glasses or contact lenses. Medical conditions can also cause vision problems and must be discussed with your doctor right away. They include:

  • Cataracts.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Floaters (spots in your field of vision).
  • Swollen eyelids.

Hearing loss can also increase your fall risks. That is because the inner ear is largely responsible for controlling balance. Therefore, if it is not functioning properly, you can develop dizziness or feel unsteady on your feet. According to the National Institutes of Health, if you are at least 75 years of age and suffer from some hearing loss, you are among the 50 percent of people who develop hearing loss at your age. Age-related hearing loss is not entirely preventable or reversible. However, having your hearing tested as soon as you develop symptoms may help you avoid further damage. Your doctor may also be able to find ways to assist you, if your hearing loss is impacting your ability to walk or maintain your balance.

Make Sure You Are Not Experiencing Medication Side Effects

Like age-related hearing loss, medication side effects or interactions can also cause balance-related symptoms. Those symptoms may make you more likely to fall. Such symptoms include:

  • Dizziness.
  • Double vision.
  • Light headedness.
  • Drowsiness

To avoid hazardous interactions caused by medicines, including interactions that could cause you to fall, all pills you take must be counted when you are asked what medications you are on. For example, if you take daily vitamins, they count as medicines and can interact with your prescribed medications. Additionally, if you see multiple doctors and each of them prescribes different medications, you must make sure it is safe to take all of those prescriptions together. Talk to your doctors and pharmacist to make sure they all agree the combination of vitamins, prescribed drugs and over-the-counter medications you are taking is safe.

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